Griffon Bruxellois Champions 1898-1986
A labour of love
by Carol Ritchie
Shortly after acquiring her first Griffon in 1983 Norma started researching the history of the breed and realising there was no printed pedigrees available she undertook the huge task of gathering this information for a book, or set of books as it turned out to be.
Norma had found Marjorie Cousen´s "The Second Book of the Griffon Bruxellois" fascinating with all the information on the lines and families from the very first imports to the UK up to the year 1960 which was the cut off point for the publication. Sadly Miss Cousens didn´ t live to see the book in print but it was published privately by her friends Mrs Eileen Street and the well known Mr Stanley Dangerfield to whom the manuscript was left in trust. This book is now a rarity and commands up to £100, although the Griffon Bruxellois Club have recently had an exact copy printed and that can be bought for £35.
Incidentally the "first" book of the Griffon Bruxellois was the amongst the well known series published by Foyles who only wanted the usual breed book content hence the private publication.
Norma used Miss Cousen´ s book, the Kennel Club Stud Books, the booklets produced by Miss Anne Tyler and Miss Raphne Deck (who carried on the lines and families of champions and CC winners and their sires and dams) and old copies of the GBC Bulletin magazines to form the basis of her research. This enormous task took three years and as Norma couldn´ t type it was meticulously handwritten. She and her husband purchased a photocopier and that is how she produced the set of four books and an index book, all spiral bound. Sadly no longer available but the work, in Norma´s format but with photographs, has been carried on by Jenny Kearney and Carol Ritchie and their first book Griffon Bruxellois Champions 1987-2000 was published in 2001 and there are a few still available from the GBBA. The next edition is work in progress and will be published in 2011.
The first pedigrees, beginning with Ch Bruno a Belgian import born 28/2/1895, are largely incomplete as many of them were Belgian dogs brought over for exhibition some stayed, others went back to their country of birth. Norma explains that she had difficulty in completing the pre-war pedigrees as the Kennel Club stud books gave "unregistered" against many of the dogs and even Miss Cousens said the information on Belgian stock was unreliable. In these circumstances it is amazing that there are only two pedigrees which remain blank! One is the second UK Champion Mousequetaire Rouge, a Belgian import, and the 19th Champion Copthorne Fatima, although this red rough bitch was recorded as bred by the then " first lady of Griffons" Mrs Handley Spicer she is also described as an import. From 1925 onwards all the pedigrees are complete and Norma even managed to record the coat and colour of the majority. Another difficult task is tracing the lines (tail male) and families (tail females) although Miss Cousens had done this classification for Champions up to 1960 it still required a lot of tracing back to complete the books. Lines are usually much easier to find as sires tend to be champions or descended from champions, whilst finding families the dams are often quite obscure and it means going back, often a long way back, to find the connection. The first Champion, Bruno, was an import but his sire and dam are recorded as Topsy II (Line C) and Catherine (Family 1), Topsys sire and grandsire are also recorded. Mrs Handley Spicer (Copthorne) did much to set the breed up in the UK she imported a number of Griffons, seven who became champions, as well as breeding ten champions herself, all but one were red roughs.
Ch Loustic a Belgian dog sired four imports who became British champions and one, Sparklets (unshown as he was cropped), who sired four further champions.
The first pedigree shown from Norma’s work is Ch Loustic’s third Ch offspring ‘Copthorne Treasure’ and is incomplete but it is the fifth champion of Mrs Handley Spicer and the fourth bred by Belgian breeders (Mrs HS bred Copthorne Seiglinde d.o.b. 23/10/1900 as she had imported C Lollipop in whelp). The second pedigree is that of Ch Glenartney Sport who won his first ticket at the age of five months – which incidentally was the reason for the kennel Club bringing in the rule that pups of under six months of age would not be eligible for competition! He went on to win 22 more CCs, the last at the age of eight. It is said he was the greatest Griffon that has ever been, but as the breed was only seven years in this country at the time of his birth that was rather a sweeping statement.The first complete pedigree to appear is that of Ch Copthorne Bogey born 1909, he was one of the first of the Copthornes first generation homebred dogs, his mother, Ch Copthorne Treasure, was the subject of a Maud Earl painting and she won the CC at Crufts four times (1906-1909). Ch Flame of St Margaret appears to be the first pedigree consisting of all English bred dogs. Mrs Cora Charters whose kennel name this was did not actually breed any of the four champions carrying her affix, she went on to become a respected Sealyham Terrier breeder using the same affix. It is interesting to note that a number of Griffon breeders from the past were also involved in Sealyhams!